Today I uploaded a picture of two Harriers in the sidebar. I’m also inserting another––one of my favorites––in this post. The pics remind me of how much I love this country.
The Republican nominee for President––for the first time in sixty years––did not mention war in his acceptance speech. Clearly a strategic move. But it saddens me. No acknowledgement of the heroic men and women who are fighting wars for America in faraway lands? That seems like a stunning and misguided tactic.
In my upcoming book, I spend a few chapters talking about my days as a Marine fighter pilot. They were unforgettable. But to my point of indifference, I pray that our Presidents never forget the brave souls in uniform nor their responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief. We could, of course, debate our current President’s track record in that regard but I’ll save that for another day.
The military provides great experiences for our young men and women. If I could, I’d like to share an excerpt from my book A Leaf on Water …
I wrote about the excitement and difficulties associated with landing aboard an aircraft carrier, but aerial combat maneuvering is something else. I took it for granted but I never had it so good. Let me explain; let’s go back in time.
Scanning the horizon, I’m aware that first acquisition means advantage. Our jets screaming at one another at a closure speed of 1,000 miles per hour, I nervously check and recheck my altimeter to ensure a five hundred foot vertical clearance, since we’re on the same radial. Still no visual. I haven’t yet seen my opponent. At 25,000 feet, the fight has to begin this way, a safe way to enter the arena that eventually will extend from ground to space.
By now, breathing and pulse rates are quickening and first, second and third turn maneuvers are being strategized. However, I need a visual. There, I see him, a speck at eleven o’clock low. I coolly call out, “I got you, keep it coming” as I subtly nose down to the same altitude.
The other pilot acknowledges and continues his flight path, still blind, apprehensive and knowing the situation is no longer neutral. If he doesn’t acquire me before the fight begins, my advantage will only increase. The roar of flight is powerful in his helmet as he desperately searches for me; seconds tick off, there, at one o’clock, intakes and wings, familiar, he too says, “I got you.”
The stage now set, each in sight, we set dead aim on the other, maneuvering our jets to the starting point. Our goals now are simple: full power, maximum airspeed, don’t give away angles, same altitude, decide first turn, keep close on flyby, avoid midair, starting point in seconds, be smart, where’s the sun, preserve energy. Then it begins.
We pass each other’s wing line within meters, close enough to see the color of our helmets. Manipulating gravity, we violently turn, driving our jets with exacting performance, striving for the vertical and avoiding the horizontal, brains morphing into computers, each seeking the eventual six o’clock missile or gun position. An eternity of dog fighting may only be four minutes, but our flight suits will be soaked with sweat, our bodies racked with adrenaline, a treasure of memories stored. Fight’s on.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I have climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I have chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I have topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
High Flight (by Gillespie Magee, killed December 11, 1941)
Is the Republican strategy of minimizing war dialogue a sound one?